Jed Hoyer joined David Kaplan during his show Monday afternoon on ESPN 1000. The Cubs are preparing for two rather busy weeks.
Hoyer said the Cubs are not close on anything right now, either free agent signings or trades. Hoyer also discussed the Cubs outfield defense and the team’s plans for Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.
On the free agent pitching market and Jordan Zimmermann receiving five years and $110 million … Will the free agent starting pitching market get insane because there are few really good pitchers and so many teams that need them?
“I think every winter you have to try in advance of guys signing you have to sort of prepare for sticker shock I guess. In theory almost every single time free agents go to the highest bidder. So what you are really seeing is what the highest bidder offered that person. It doesn’t mean they might have had six offers that were very reasonable or more reasonable then that last offer that pushes the guy over the edge may seem really high to people. You try to prepare yourself because there are going to be some deals that are high that are going to affect the market. I think in general you can’t ignore the market but you also have to make the moves you think makes sense for the team and not get caught up in it too much. There is always a sense when these guys start going off the board there is always a sense of how high the market is. I think it’s our job to sort of stay above that.”
On if the Cubs would be better off using the available payroll this winter to address several areas with multiple players instead of using it all on one elite player?
“Those are really the philosophical questions we’ve all been having for the last couple of months. I think there is good with both. I think that when you talk about elite players, obviously can change a team. You look at what Jake [Arrieta] did for us last year with an elite performance that certainly changed our entire season. I think we were 16-1 in the last 17 games he pitched in the season. I mean that’s how you win 97 games but I do think, and I’ve said this many times, I think depth is one of the most underrated things in our game. Everyone’s going to write out lineups. Everyone lists off lineups in the off-season. They don’t focus on bench. They don’t focus on bullpen. They don’t focus on get guys in Triple-A that are going up and down. And over the course of six months those are the little moves that make a huge difference. Teams that are built well on paper are really relying on no injuries. I think we all know that is not how the game works. I do think depth is always very underrated, especially in the winter.”
“We try not to pigeon-hole ourselves too much on right versus left. We have a one and two that are a good right-left punch. I think that if we have the rest of the guys righties I think that’s okay. I do think with our rotation, obviously we’ve made no secret that we are trying to address our pitching and our pitching depth this winter, I do feel like those guys got tired at the end of the year. It’s always hard to look back over the course of the whole season. The first three months of the season our starting pitching totally carried our team until we really started hitting. We need to improve it but I do think guys like Jason Hammel and guys like Kyle Hendricks, given the way the season ended, probably aren’t getting as much credit as those guys deserve.”
On the Cubs defense and the front office looking to improve the team’s defense, especially in the outfield
“Certainly against the Mets our outfield defense struggled. We tried our hardest towards the end of the year just to cram as much offense as we could on the field. I think that probably did come a little bit at the expense of our defense. We knew we had some guys playing out of position. We had some guys that are sort of bat-first guys. There is no doubt when you watch a lot of really good teams play with really good outfield defense. Outfield defense is a big part of run prevention and I think we do have to think about that as we build our team. We do have to think about our outfield defense and making sure our pitchers … You’re going to make some mistakes. We have to make sure we have guys that can run those mistakes down.”
On Kris Bryant playing third base or do the Cubs see him playing the outfield as he gets bigger and fills out
“I expect it to be very similar to last year. I think he’s our third baseman with the ability to go out to the outfield if we need him in a pinch or for a period of time. I thought he made good strides at third base. He wants to play there. I think he can definitely keep getting better and better. But I do think he’ll always play a little bit of outfield because he is versatile. I think Joe [Maddon] likes to do that with guys. He feels it keeps them sharp. Joe feels like changing positions and moving around the diamond reminds guys of just playing baseball as a kid. It keeps it fun. I think he’s always, he always wants to do that when a guy has the ability to move around the diamond.”
On with the Winter Meetings next week, will the Cubs address the rotation through free agency or trades
“It’s kind of a cop out, I don’t think we know yet. I think that both of those markets are still developing. As you mentioned, the free agent market just started to develop the other day. I think that the trade market is still developing. I don’t think we know yet. The way we look at Nashville [Winter Meetings] and this week is also a very busy week, is you’ve got to stay nimble and you got to know that things are going to come at you that you might not have expected. You always have to be prepared just to make the best decisions you can make. We always talk about making sure that we can move as quickly as we can and that we are ready because some team will throw an idea at us that we’ve never thought about in Nashville and we have to be prepared to move quickly. I think if you sort of set your feet and set your mind too much on an exact plan I think you can miss out on some stuff. I think being prepared and being ready for Nashville is the most important thing. I’m sure it’s going to be a fascinating week.”
On if he thinks by the time the Cubs leave the Winter Meetings they will have one if not two pitchers added to the rotation, or will it drag into late December and into January
“I don’t know about two pieces. I think moves will start to happen this week and next week. I say that … we are not close to anything right now. But I think that the way the market is starting to pick-up, I just think that over the next two weeks or so I think that there will be a lot of activity. I would expect that as the market picks up we will be a part of that market. How many pieces, I am not sure but I am sort of expecting there to be a busy couple of weeks and hopefully things will line up for us and we will have a lot of good opportunities.”
Do the Cubs see Kyle Schwarber in left field when the season starts and will the Cubs try to work him in some at catcher? Or do the Cubs see him as a full-time outfielder?
“I think we are probably going to look at it, we are not going to give up on his catching by any means. I think one of the biggest challenges with Kyle [Schwarber] is he is such a great hitter that the idea of putting him back in Triple-A just to work on his catching doesn’t seem like a great idea. I think he is going to play a lot of left field next year but I think we are going to still really try to work with him on his catching. Maybe catch him occasionally. We just don’t want to give up on that. He wants to do it. We think he can do it. It’s just hard right now. We are in a winning moment with our team and this guy can really help us with his bat so as a result it’s harder for us just to focus on his catching. But we don’t want to ever lose his catching. If you think about how impactful his bat is in left field you put that bat behind the plate it’s a really fun thought to think about our team in the future. He will definitely catch some. I would expect he gets a ton of at bats in left field.”